2014 is turning out to be a big year for many artists in terms of album releases, touring, and the overall magnitude of forward momentum. This is very much the case with Oakland’s own Midnight Raid, which released their very first full length studio album this year titled Oakland Loves You.
Midnight Raid describes their latest work as “refreshing” and “original while staying true to the spirit of reggae music”. This is a recording that absolutely delivers on those pledges. The songs are heavily melodic and ranges from funk to reggae to latin and touches on everything in between. The songs on Oakland Loves You are not just about capturing fleeting moments, or about fighting the system – It’s about making a movement, social activism and giving voice to the many people that struggle on a daily basis.
Lead vocalist Ben Garcia Candelaria had this to say about the album’s sound, “Writing and producing Oakland Loves You was a growing experience. Being a relatively new band, we were still trying to find our identity with our debut album. I think we found it and am very proud of what we made. We knew from the beginning that we all had rather eclectic tastes. However, I did not know if we would be able to communicate our diversity of influences into our finished product and, honestly, I was a little scared to. Scared because it seems as though the ‘reggae’ bands that are the most successful, at least here in California, have a distinctive ‘sound.’ Most bands try and emulate this sound, this “California” sound ripe with Sublime overtones. We were trying to step away from that with this album and bring some funkyness to the scene.”
Oakland Loves You starts off extremely strong with the track titled “Falling Down”. This crowd swaying tune with sultry sax playing from Josh Dunlap adds a tremendous amount of color and punctuation to the track that it will most definitely leave you humming the melody long after the track is over and manages to sustain your attention for the entirety of the album.
The crisp tones from the instruments and soulful lyrics masterfully maneuvers between relaxed and unhinged with pinpoint precision.
The crisp tones from the instruments and soulful lyrics masterfully maneuvers between relaxed and unhinged with pinpoint precision. A great example of this said mastery can be heard on track number three titled “Rain Down on Me.” The track opens up with a tight and ambitious guitar riff followed by silky smooth vocals from lead singer Ben Garcia. Near the end of the track, an all out explosion, no mercy, everybody for themselves style finale closes off the track. Awkward? Not in the slightest bit. The transitions are seamless, but hot to the touch.
The diversity of sounds in Oakland Loves You is what really makes this album shine. Inspiration from artists like Peter Tosh, Steel Pulse and John Brown’s Body can clearly be heard throughout the album, although with a slight Midnight Raid twist to them. Ben elaborates, “On the album we play reggae, funk, soul, calypso, rock, montuno, all the while maintaining the street vibe that comes from living in Oakland. Midnight Raid was born in Oakland and the activism, the camaraderie, the police surveillance, the streets, the burritos, all influence our music. You can probably tell just by looking at our album cover. Local artist Tim Hon did a great job for us.”
On most occasions when a band is labeled as “eclectic”, or describe themselves as a “melting pot’ of influences, flags of skepticism and fear tend to rise almost immediately. This however isn’t the case with Midnight Raid, so put those flags down. Oakland Loves You is a shimmering collection of powerful songs with dense and complex production that showcases Midnight Raid’s true roster of talent while being warm, inviting, and surprisingly easy to listen to and love.
- Falling Down
- I Don’t Need Your Love
- Rain Down On Me
- New Jim Crow
- Keep On Moving
- Running Free
- Oakland Love Song
Midnight Raid – I Don’t Need Your Love
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Released March, 23 2014 • Photo credits James LeDeau of Stage Media
Disclaimer: All views presented in this album review are those of the reviewer and not necessarily those of Top Shelf Music.